Alice Friman: "The Visitation"




The white oak outside my window

turns burgundy as befits the season.                     

But this fall, as if bursting in a boast

of fang and claw, the tree has turned

red, animal red—blood sister

to the circling hawk. No other oak

in the surrounding forest matches it.

No other tree. If this visitation

is a sign to be read through glass—

museum diorama or a crystal ball

that seizes, shrinks, and reports

what's hoped for—I can't say. I only

know the tree presses to my window,

holding out its palms for me to read,

ten-thousand hands fluttering murder.


I think Shakespeare, Birnam Wood

come to Dunsinane and all that.

But this time Birnam Wood

has come to me, hoisting in my face

the army's standard, its prized

rallying point: the lady of the house

on a spiked pole bloated by blood:

a tree that glitters in the sun.


Soon the leaves will darken the way

all blood darkens when exposed to air.

And drifts of the dull and desiccated

will fall like scabs. Pathetic fallacy—

I know—heaping butchery on a tree.

But my time is short, and I, with no

camera or Crayolas, have only

these lines to lasso this red down:

a necessity, come winter, when all color

drains out of this world, and I am left

pacing my discontent before my night window

where outside, a skeleton, nightgowned in fog,

wanders in the cold, periodically                       

scraping the ground, feeling for her hands.


Alice Friman’s sixth full-length collection is The View from Saturn, LSU Press.  Her previous collection is Vinculum, LSU, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry. Friman lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College.